A mother of seven, Mignon Francois moved her family to Nashville in 2005. One of her children wanted to pursue a singing career. That meant they needed a new home and jobs. However, soon after they relocated, Francois who had decided to be a stay-at-home mom to raise her children, realized they were living on scarce resources. Today, she runs a million-dollar cupcake business debt-free and is helping other entrepreneurs establish their businesses.
After moving to Nashville, her husband lost his job which made things even difficult for the family of nine. For her children to stay warm at night, Francois would stay at home the whole day in the dark and turn on the heating for her children at night.
The former household manager holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Houston Baptist University in 1999 and an M.B.A. from the School of Hard Knocks.
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A radio show on how to live debt-free by a finance guru, Dave Ramsey, gave her the idea of having a bake sale to earn a few extra cash. Without knowing how to bake, she bought cooking books and watched cooking shows when she can.
She enlisted the services of her grandmother who is a well-known baker but lives miles away via phone. Mixing the techniques she had picked up from her research and her grandmother’s skills, Francois began baking cupcakes for her neighbors and when they kept coming back for more, she decided to turn it into a business. But with no proper capital, it was difficult to establish herself.
She had a strong faith in God and always prayed for a breakthrough. Interestingly, she had one in disguise at a time when her human self taught it was impossible. It was nearing Christmas and a neighbor wanted to give all her 600 clients cupcakes; it was Francois’ services she enlisted. According to Francois, all she had that day was $5 for dinner when her neighbor knocked on her door to place the very large order.
“When I closed the door, I had a real come-to-Jesus moment with God and said like, ‘Seriously? You offer me this opportunity when I don’t have any money? I literally have $5 to feed us,’” Francois told Business Insider.
With a little calculation, she realized she could bake only 60 cupcakes and her neighbor agreed to pay a dollar for each. With a leap of faith, she went out to purchase the ingredients for the cake and got $60 that day.
After an agreement with her neighbor, the rest of the cakes were baked that very week. After, she made her first $600.
Francois set up The Cupcake Collection the next year and that is the business model that she has kept for the last 11 years with the help of an accountant, loyal staff, and her faith in God. Her Cupcake Collection, which offers cupcakes, wedding cakes, and birthday cakes, makes almost $1 million each year.
For future entrepreneurs, Francois advises they stop overthinking and start with whatever resources they may have. She also wants to help other people who want to open businesses through mentoring programs at Pathways Women’s Business Center and Nashville Entrepreneur Center.
Running a business, even one that rakes in $1 million in revenue, comes with its challenges but through it all, the most rewarding thing for Francois is seeing people line up to pick up orders.
“The most rewarding thing for me has been going out into the lobby and seeing people. When I started this, I didn’t know how to bake. We just celebrated nine years of business.
“I’m still overjoyed and overwhelmed that people are waiting in line – surgeons, teachers, stay-at-home moms, actors – and talking to each other about which kind is the best! The connection and camaraderie created by the cupcakes are one of the most rewarding things.”